WordPress has used WordPress.com as their proving ground since the beginning, relying upon the feedback of the many bloggers from around the world, all using different types of computer hardware, browser types, operating systems, and blog setups to test one of the most powerful publishing programs – a prime testing environment. In the beginning, there were a few bumps and bruises. Today, WordPress is tested extensively by a wide range of advanced testers and programmers and then bits of code are slowly introduced and tested on WordPress.com, leading up to the widespread testing of the beta before unleashing it on the many millions of self-hosted WordPress users.
Most of the improvements are not visible on the public face of your WordPress.com blog. They are in the Administration Panels, improving the efficiency of managing your content and writing blog posts.
Some of the exciting new features you need to check out include:
- Internal linking
- Post and Page column sorting
- Post and Page pagination controls in the content management areas
- Improved AJAX search results in posts and pages
- Improved support for IE9
Improvements to the Admin Bar came earlier to the bar that sits at the top of your blog and Administration Panels when you are logged into WordPress.com adding new navigation features and options.
Personally, I am most excited about the internal linking feature on WordPress.com, finally making it easy for bloggers to link to their past posts.
Type the link text and highlight the words, then click the Links toolbar icon to activate the link options. The internal linking feature allows you to search keywords from within the post title and content to find the post to link with a single click and apply. The link is a perfectly formed HTML anchor tag with the title attribute, a big improvement from the older linking system. There is an option to add an attribute to open the link in a new tab or window. Please refrain from using that as it is deprecated and violates web standards for accessibility and really pisses off power users who want to control how their links open. I love this new feature, one I’ve requested from the beginning as I waste a LOT of time searching for past posts to include in my content and manually created related posts feature.
Unfortunately power bloggers must risk the state of their handwritten HTML and switch away from the so often ignored HTML editor to the Visual Editor to use the new feature, and the last link you created remains in the link popup, which may cause confusion as it did for me the first time, making me think I was editing the link I just created instead of making a new one. This is part of the joy of beta testing the latest version of WordPress.
What you cannot see are improvements in Theme handling and functionality as well as taxonomy issues. While the document is not complete, see WordPress Version 3.1 outlined in the WordPress Codex, the online manual for WordPress Users.
What is not available yet on WordPress.com is the new Post Formats. The introduction of Custom Post Types brought joy to the hearts of those eager to embrace WordPress as a CMS, permitting customized Pages that worked outside of the WordPress post chronological loop, and confusion to the many who thought that “post type” meant you could create custom post templates and styles to distinguish one post “type” from other. Post Formats is the next step to bring that wish to reality, permitting 9 Tumblr-like post formats: aside, audio (podcast), chat, gallery, image, link, quote, status, and video. The incorporation of such options into WordPress.com has been long overdue and should be interesting. Post Formats open a huge door to WordPress Theme developers and designers as well.
For more on what is coming in WordPress 3.1, especially for self-hosted versions of WordPress see:
- Post Formats – WordPress Codex
- Jane Wells on WordPress 3.1 Development Process and Scope
- WordPress 3.1 Milestones Trac to peak behind the scenes at core development tickets
- Trac Ticket – WordPress 3.1 Intra-site linking added to link to past content easily
- News & Code at Make WordPress UI on work to improve WordPress interface & user experience
- Mark McWilliams: WordPress 3.1 Introduces Custom Post Type Archives
- Mark Jaquith – WordPress 3.1 Post Formats vs. Custom Post Types
- Memeburn: Seven new features you can expect from WordPress 3.1
- Tek Artist: New Linking Management Now in WordPress Trunk with example
- Troy Chaplin: New WordPress 3.1 Features Aim to Create a Better CMS
- Weblog Tools Collection summary Feature Status Update from October (Everything you want to know!)
- WPDevel discussion on Feature Status and Post Formats set list
- WPDevel discussion on Post Format UI for Themes changes and features
- WPDevel Discussion on List of Post Format Types
- Changes to custom post types meta capability handling
- WordPress 3.1 Project Schedule
- WPEngineer’s WordPress 3.1 Admin Bar Announced
- WPBeginner: What’s Coming in WordPress 3.1
- WPBeginner: What, Whys, and How to’s of Post Formats in WordPress 3.1
WordPress Theme and Plugin developers need to pay close attention to some of the news, improvements and feature changes and additions as some of the changes in WordPress 3.1 may influence your Themes and Plugins, making them incompatible, or better yet, giving you even more power and flexibility to make your coding dreams come true.
What Else is New on WordPress.com?
In case you haven’t been paying attention, here are some more new features available on WordPress.com, which may or may not be available to self-hosted versions of WordPress.
- WordPress for Nokia: WordPress has been available for iPHone, BlackBerry, and Android, and now is available for Nokia users with a Nokia app.
- Twitter Integration: Called “Twitter Blackbird Pie,” you can now display your Tweets in your blog posts simply by pasting in the URL/permalink to the tweet on a line by itself. It generates a “graphic” view of your tweet. This is also available for self-hosted WordPress blogs with the Twitter Blackbird Pie WordPress Plugin.
- Custom CSS: Improvements in WordPress.com Themes have been going on for a while, but now many of the features permitted only in a few Themes have come to more WordPress.com Themes, including the ability to add the Custom CSS upgrade to many of the Themes without being restricted to only the Sandbox Theme.
- Offsite redirect upgrade: A fairly new feature, Offsite Redirect is an upgrade that permits you to leave WordPress.com with a 301 redirect to your new site for a small fee.
- WordPress.com Stats: Upgrades and improvements, long needed, to the WordPress.com stats, including replacing Flash with a new charting library system called Flot. This change permits viewing of your WordPress.com stats through mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad. These are currently still in development, so give them your feedback and input, and soon the changes will be added to the WordPress.com Stats WordPress Plugin.
- Webhooks: Push notifications (HTTP POST), events activated when an event happens, such as a comment on a post, publishing a page or post, etc., a “script” is activated. The example they give is a cell phone text message sent each time a new comment is added to your site.
- Gravatar Hovercards: A Gravatar new feature that hows a hover over your Gravatar featuring your profile information, Facebook, Twitter, and other social network links, and recent photographs.
- Text Messaging: The ability to manage your blog through SMS messages from your cell phone (available only in the USA). There are free and paid options. Paid options include comment and post publishing notification, and blogging from your cell phone.
- Email Post Changes: A great feature for multiple blogger sites on WordPress.com, as well as self-hosted WordPress blogs with the Email Post Changes WordPress Plugin, you can now be notified by email whenever a change is made to a post on your site, taking advantage of the post revisions feature.
- Subscriptions: The addition of the Subscriptions Panel on WordPress.com, accessible from the Admin Bar. By subscribing to a blog or adding it to your Subscribe page, your WordPress.com blog also becomes a feed reader. An alert “New” notification is also featured on the Admin Bar when there are updates to the subscribed blogs. They’ve also integrated email and jabber notifications to the new panel so you can turn on and off email notifications for new posts or get posts sent directly to you through instant messenger.
- Instant Notification of Subscriptions: As part of the move to create a more powerful feed reader within WordPress.com, making the service a “one stop” content, news, and inspiration service, the instant delivery notification feature uses Jabber to send out instant messages through Adium, iChat, Psi, Pidgin and other supported third-party clients or Jabber’s own client.
- Social Network/Media Sharing: The ability to add a “sharing bar” to your blog posts to encourage readers to share your post with Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and to use their WordPress Press This feature.